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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

October 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tossed for disrespect? It happens even to kindergartners

Even at the highest levels of government, among people programmed to duck controversy, there is no mincing words on the problem of school discipline: Racial discrimination seriously skews who gets punished, and for what, says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

He was speaking to educators in Maryland, where kicking kids out of school starts as early as kindergarten  or earlier. In that state, 91 preschoolers were suspended or expelled during the 2011-’12 school year, a disproportionate number of them African-American.

The city of Seattle tops that figure with its kindergarten and first-graders, temporarily tossing 104 of its youngest students out of school in 2012-’13.

What could a little kid do that’s serious enough to get suspended, even for a short time?

Statewide student discipline categories, 2012-’13 school year. Courtesy OSPI.

Statewide student discipline categories, 2012-’13 school year. Courtesy OSPI.


Comments | More in News | Topics: discipline, race

October 1, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Round-up: State withholds funds from Seattle special ed, feds issue new equity guidelines

State withholds federal funds from Seattle’s special-ed program:  The state’s special-education director, Doug Gill, has informed Seattle Public Schools it is now a “high risk” recipient of federal dollars and will receive less funding while it continues to face a host of management and compliance problems in its special-education program. The state is withholding about $3 million of the $10.6 million the district was supposed to receive for special ed this school year.

Feds to announce new guidelines on education equity (The New York Times): The Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education has released a 37-page document intended to ensure racial minorities have access to strong teachers, advanced classes and quality extra-curricular activities. Federal data show two-thirds of black students attend a high school that offers calculus classes, compared to 81 percent of white students and 87 percent of Asian-American students.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

October 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Jargon round III: Child-centered, phonemic awareness, equity, IEP

Our jargon expert today is Charles Duerr, a former Bellevue elementary teacher who now coaches first-year teachers. He holds the prestigious national board certification, and, like our previous jargon-definers, is a contributor to the Stories from Schools blog, sponsored by the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession.

Duerr tackled a few more of the tempestuous terms you listed earlier on this blog. See his definitions below.


Charles Duerr

For any other potential definers out there, here are a few other words we’d still like described in plain-spoken language. They are: Alignment, benchmarking, value-added, rubric.  Send a one- or two-sentence definition to, and we may feature it in a future Education Lab post.

Now to Duerr’s definitions:

Phonemic awareness: An early education skill, the knowledge of the sounds that letters and groups of letters make. It is assessed by reading nonsense words: Plub, crin, swar

Child-centered/brain-based/learner centered: Separate but overlapping approaches to teaching that consider the emotional health, developmental stages, and learning styles of students.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession, Charles Duerr, jargon

September 30, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Round-up: 2 more charter schools set for approval, Md. teachers ‘warehoused’ on paid leave

Two more charter schools set for approval next week (AP): A statewide commission is expected to OK two new charter schools at a meeting in Yakima. One is a high school and middle school located in Seattle; the other is an elementary school in Sunnyside.

Maryland teachers ‘warehoused’ during misconduct investigations (The Baltimore Sun): A Baltimore Sun investigation finds teachers in several counties are commonly sent to warehouses while they are on paid administrative leave. In addition to the accused teacher’s salary, taxpayers must also foot the bill for a substitute teacher while districts conduct misconduct investigations, which can take more than a year to complete.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 30, 2014 at 11:58 AM

League of Education Voters opposes class-size ballot measure

The League of Education Voters, a non-profit advocacy organization that has backed previous efforts to reduce class sizes, announced Tuesday that it opposes  I-1351the statewide class-size reduction initiative on the November ballot.

The Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, spearheaded a signature gathering drive for the initiative last spring, turning in nearly 350,000 signatures to put I-351 on the ballot. So far, the Class Size Counts campaign website lists endorsements from the Bellevue and Walla Walla school boards, the Tacoma Council PTA and several unions, along with about three-dozen individuals.

But not LEV, which explained its position on the organization’s blog:


Comments | More in News | Topics: Class Size Counts, League of Education Voters

September 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Later high-school start times: How 70 districts have done it

Mounting scientific evidence shows that chronic sleep loss compromises teenagers’ learning, health and safety, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics last month to recommend that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Yet changing bell times has proven so logistically and politically complicated that only about 70 school districts around the country have figured out a way to do it.

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

In July, Seattle’s school board waded into those waters, directing the district’s staff to begin a 15-month study to change school starting times. The district is now accepting applications to participate in a year-long task force on that will include district staff, parents, students and community experts. The deadline to apply is Oct. 6.

To appreciate the magnitude of the work involved, Seattle and other interested school districts should check out what’s been going on in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the 11th-largest school district in the country.

Fairfax has been trying to change bell times for more than a decade. The latest push was launched in April, 2012, when the Fairfax board set a goal of having no high school begin before 8 a.m. The board may finally be approaching the finish line with a plan up for a vote on Oct. 23.

To develop its plan, Fairfax hired Children’s National Medical Center’s Division of Sleep Medicine, which published a report in April that examined how the 70 school districts that changed bell times got it done.


Comments | More in News | Topics: school start times, Seattle Public Schools, Teen sleep

September 29, 2014 at 11:37 AM

Round-up: Community colleges win $12.5M for job training, Calif. adopts ‘yes means yes’ law

Community colleges win $12.5 million for job-training programs (AP): Vice President Joe Biden announced close to a half-billion dollars in grants on Monday that will be directed to community colleges working with employers on job-training programs. In Washington state, a consortium of eight schools received $10 million to fund a program called Washington Integrated Sector Employment. Another $2.5 million was awarded to Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.

California adopts ‘yes means yes’ rule for colleges (AP): The Golden State has become the first in the U.S. to adopt legislation requiring colleges to follow a “yes means yes” rule when investigating sexual-assault cases. The bill states that consent requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Tacoma university offers more financial help to local students

A generation ago, the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma was the kind of liberal-arts college that attracted mostly local, home-grown students. But as it built a national reputation  and as the price of tuition rose  the school’s enrollment increasingly came from out of state. Today, 80 percent of UPS students come from outside Washington.

Now, UPS is looking to change that.

The university is making a new push into Tacoma public schools, whose students account for only about 2 percent of the university’s enrollment. UPS is promising that if they are admitted, the university will meet their financial need through a combination of scholarships, grants, loans and work study.

UPS President Ron Thomas said the community has the perception that the college is difficult to get into, and too expensive. He said UPS has always tried to meet the financial need of students who couldn’t afford full tuition, so the campaign is in part an effort to make people more aware of financial aid resources.


Comments | More in News | Topics: higher ed, private colleges, Tacoma

September 26, 2014 at 12:04 PM

Round-up: D.C. schools focus on dropout prevention, the case against student course evaluations

D.C. schools focus on dropout prevention (The Washington Post): A coalition of public, private and nonprofit groups in the District of Columbia is targeting early risk factors for high-school dropouts. A report released Friday by the group found students are six percentage points less likely to graduate from high-school for every class they fail in eighth grade.

Denver-area protests over history curriculum continue (The Denver Post): For the fourth day in a row, students from several Denver-area high schools have walked out of class in protest of changes to the Advanced Placement history curriculum. The controversy is related to the recent election of a school board with a conservative majority.


Comments | More in News | Topics: round-up

September 26, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Leading researchers to speak on neuroscience, learning disabilities

Most experts in brain science and education warn that the distance between the laboratory and the classroom is too vast for scientists to tell teachers how to do their jobs.

But that doesn’t mean neuroscience has nothing to contribute to education.

For example, neuroscientists and educators are working together to better understand biologically-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia.

They hope to find ways to diagnose those problems sooner and adjust teaching to eliminate or at least soften their impact.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Dyslexia, learning disabilities, neuroscience

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